Ochsner Health's Healthy Joint Program
As we age, our joints age with us. Osteoarthritis is a condition that occurs in the joints and leads to pain or surgery. Joints are formed when two bones come together. At the ends of those bones is a flexible and firm connective tissue called cartilage. Cartilage cushions the bones against impact at the level of the joint. With age, the cartilage starts to wear down, leading to osteoarthritis. Some people get osteoarthritis earlier in life after experiencing trauma to that area. Other people experience osteoarthritis earlier due to environmental factors such as being overweight. Just being 10 pounds overweight increases the force on your knees by 30-40 pounds!
Our genetics also play a significant role in determining when one may develop osteoarthritis. If your parents developed osteoarthritis, it wouldn’t be shocking if you did too. No matter how you developed osteoarthritis, the symptoms can be challenging. Many experience pain and stiffness. For some people, daily activities can be hard to complete. Others may need to use assisted devices such as a cane or wheelchair to help them get around. I’m often asked, “What can I do to help with my joint pain?” To answer that question, Ochsner has created the Healthy Joint Program.
What is the Healthy Joint Program?
The Healthy Joint Program is a collaborative treatment approach between physicians, Ochsner Therapy & Wellness, and Ochsner Fitness Center for patients who suffer from chronic joint pain and are not ready for a total joint replacement or may not be a surgical candidate at this time. The program includes an evaluation, treatment and a tailored home exercise program created by an orthopedic-trained physical therapist. There is also complete access to all Ochsner Fitness Center locations, including classes offered to Healthy Joint and Medical Fitness Program members.
How does it work?
Once your healthcare provider places the order into your chart, the physical therapy scheduler will reach out to you to schedule an evaluation. At that time, you will also receive a membership to all Ochsner Fitness Center locations at the cost of $1/day on the days you visit. Participants have complete access to the fitness center, including group exercise class, water aerobics and more. In addition to these classes, there is a yoga class that only Healthy Joint and Medical Fitness Program members can access.
What happens if I don’t get better in 30 days?
Suppose you have not made decent progress within 30 days of program participation. In that case, you will be referred to one of the orthopedic providers to discuss other interventions. As a primary care sports medicine physician, I evaluate patients to find the best options for them. While it’s not ideal for many people, surgery may be a patient’s best solution. However, other conservative options are helpful as they delay or even put off surgery for good. Besides interventions targeting pain, a consult with a nutritionist and a physician specializing in weight loss may be suggested.
Taking care of your joints takes effort
Exercise alone has been proven to improve joint pain in many individuals. That’s why having a discounted gym membership is offered for participants in the program. Studies have also shown that increasing strength and range of motion with physical therapy is also beneficial for relieving joint pain. This is why physical therapy is an integral part of the Healthy Joint Program. As mentioned before, being overweight puts more pressure on joints, which can lead to pain. Having guidance by a health care professional will help to ensure that you lose weight safely and efficiently.
Overall, the Healthy Joint Program is a comprehensive program aimed at bettering the lives of Ochsner patients by targeting the many factors that contribute to joint pain.